We’ve come a wrong way, bay-bee
WE’VE COME A WRONG WAY, BAY-BEE
As I was saying, the phrase, “This may be politically incorrect, but…”, makes me reach for the “delete” key. Why? Because it almost always precedes a mindless bit of racism or a snotty put-down of women. The cutesy idiom masquerades as disobedience but in fact dismisses consciousness and justifies meanspirited conformity.
So-called “political correctness” didn’t weaken feminism, but fear of that label did. Excusing the perpetrator from taking on tough issues, this phobic umbrella shelters a multitude of retreats. Too often it’s trotted out by Lesbians to defend to the death their right to wear lipstick and hang out with boys.
How did conscious feminists become such easy targets? And why have cheap shots at women’s culture become so pervasive? Personal ambitions aside, we have to wonder what has driven our Lesbian icons to distance themselves from the very community which jump-started their careers and to this day supplies them with audiences and readerships.
Remember when we used to scrutinize everything by holding it up to feminist analysis? Sure we were sometimes overly harsh with each other and yeah, sometimes we beat each other over the head with our politics, but those of us who stuck it out in honest engagement moved forward together. We thought on our feet, excited ourselves and each other with insights, set light bulbs off like strings of firecrackers. And we had good, clean fun!
But these days when-I see most Lesbian productions, or peruse most Lesbian writing, my mind wanders. I feel empty. It’s so gosh-darned dull. “Ho(mo) hum”, as Jorjet says. I can only hope that beneath all the fluff and nonsense, the old firebreathing feminism is just resting, biding it’s time, getting ready for a comeback.
“Diversity” was once code for the inclusion of every racial and ethnic heritage in our thoughts, lives and community. Many a white woman’s consciousness was raised by painstaking Lesbian anti-racist process, and although a few used it to manipulate and bully their way to power, a multi-cultural Lesbian community represents feminism at it’s best. Diversity IS correct, both personally and politically, but somehow anti-racism got lost in a “diversity” which has come to mean the inclusion of men-of-all-genders in Lesbian community.
How did this happen? The reasons are abundant and, to borrow a phrase from Andrei Codrescu, “too boring to enumerate”. But hey, it’s important to track how we’ve devolved from a volunteer participatory and highly conscious culture to the business of rainbow paraphernalia, once-a year festivals, holiday cruises, and little else.
When we contemplate how feminist meaning and mission have departed our daily lives, and when we mourn the absence of gritty political analysis, we are left with troubling questions. They are questions sure to trigger “politically correct” marks of disapproval and explain why popular gay media avoids them like, well, the plague.
Of course we suffered casualties and defections from the fierce emotional combat erupting between passionately driven comrades in what I call the “Lesbian Wars”.
Next came cleanliness, sobriety and of course, therapy, to capture our attention and chart a new course.
Meanwhile, non-feminists slipped into University Women’s Studies programs, trashed “politically correct” “gender” or “cultural” feminists, instituted the far more respectable “Gender Studies” and gained male academic approval and tenure.
Discovering that certain categories of men scored higher on the oppress-o-meter than they did, multitudes of caretaking, compassionate Lesbians scurried away from their woman-centered priorities. As Gloria Steinem confessed, “I still (at age 65) have the female psychological disease of knowing what other people are feeling better than knowing what I’m feeling”. Lesbians, being devoutly female, are arguably even more vulnerable than others of our gender (you’ll excuse the expression) to the historic allure “victimhood” presents.
Indeed, it takes a politically conscious, dedicated band of superwomen to resist the relentless barrage of male-centeredness that is patriarchy. We know many Dykes who simply tired of the intense effort required to build and sustain community against the tide of popular mainstream. Many partnered up, joined up, and settled down to demanding careers and families, taking their commitment with them. Who can blame them?
There’s no need for blame, but there IS a need to question our own cultural arbiters and pop psychologists who’ve colluded in the dumbing down of our community for their own benefit, who’ve legitimized the abdication of our feminism by supplying even more mud to throw at political consciousness. “Politically correct”? You tell me.
Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Aug/Sep 1999
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